Basic Training

Study Shows ‘Shock Collars’ a Risk to Dog’s Behavioral Well-Being

shockcollarA recent study, conducted by animal behavior specialists at the University of Lincoln, UK, revealed that training dogs with the use of an e-collar, or “shock collar,” is a risk to the dogs’ behavioral well-being, especially when compared to reward-based training methods.

While there are arguments both for and against the use of shock collars, with both sides genuinely concerned for the safety and welfare of their dogs, limited research has been done to compare behavioral, emotional, and physical effects of their use. So, researchers at the University of Lincoln sought out to determine the performance and welfare consequences of using electronic collars in training dogs in the field.

From Science Daily:

The research followed a preliminary study using a small sample of dogs that had largely been referred for training because of chasing sheep. Results showed changes in dogs’ behavior during training, which were consistent with pain or aversion, as well as increased salivary cortisol indicating increased arousal.

However, these trainers did not follow training guidelines published by collar manufacturers so a larger study involving industry approved trainers was conducted to assess if training collars can be effectively used to improve obedience without compromising dog welfare.

The new study involved 63 pet dogs referred for poor recall and related problems, including livestock worrying, which are the main reasons for collar use in the UK. The dogs were split into three groups — one using e-collars and two as control groups.

Trainers used lower settings with a pre-warning function and behavioral responses were less marked than during the preliminary study. Despite this, dogs trained with e-collars showed behavioral changes that were consistent with a negative response. These included showing more signs of tension, more yawning and less time engaged in environmental interaction than the control dogs.

Following training most owners reported improvements in their dog’s problem behavior. Owners of dogs trained using e-collars were, however, less confident of applying the training approach demonstrated.

These findings indicate that there is no consistent benefit to be gained from e-collar training, but greater welfare concerns compared with positive reward-based training.

The study’s lead author, Jonathan Cooper, Professor of Animal Behavior and Welfare at the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, said, “e-collar training did not result in a substantially superior response to training in comparison to similarly experienced trainers who do not use e-collars to improve recall and control chasing behavior.

“Accordingly, it seems that the routine use of e-collars even in accordance with best practice, as suggested by collar manufacturers, presents a risk to the well-being of pet dogs. The scale of this risk would be expected to be increased when practice falls outside of this ideal.”

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Travis

    Sep 13, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    I got a puppy the past December and he is now 9 months old my mom bought a shock collar for our chocolate lab who never stays home. However my new puppy is extremely cautious and a bit over dramatic. He also likes to dig in my moms flower beds. So she put the shock collar on him and set it so he couldn’t get in the front yard. He got to far out and the collar malfunctioned and once it started shocking him he couldn’t get out of it. He cried and screamed and wailed and once he saw me he ran to me and out of the shocking. The rest of the day (today) he is moody and almost seems depressed. He won’t follow me anywhere as much and as enthusiastic as what he always has I’m worried about him and am saying this is possible.

  2. Sally

    Sep 10, 2014 at 7:35 am

    I have a part dingo and I would sincerely like to see someone train the prey drive out of her with positive reinforcement. Once again the academics are sentencing to death many dogs that could be helped by the judicious use of shock collars. I don’t really care if my dog shows more signs of tension, more yawning and less time engaged in environmental interaction than the control dogs just so she does not jump the fence and kill any furry or feathered creature she encounters. Because that behaviour will not just increase her tension, it will have her euthanised by the local council. How can one take seriously a “study” consisting of 63 dogs??? I think the academics should stick to whatever it is that academics do and leave the dog training to those who have actually had to deal with problem dogs in a hands on situation.

  3. Peter

    Sep 9, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    I wonder how the results of this study apply to using shock collars only for electric fences. I’d like to put in an electronic fence to keep my dog from going into the street or other people’s property since the boundaries around our land are forested and not very clearly marked. But I hesitate because I’m worried about any potential negative problems she might have if she gets shocked. I have read many reviews where people mentioned their dogs sometimes become afraid of going outside after getting shocked and sometimes takes additional training to show them that it’s safe within the boundaries, so I don’t want my dog becoming depressed or tense about going outside (she’s a rescue and pretty sensitive and emotional).

  4. Sally A Larter

    Sep 9, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Hi there. I have a male Cairn Terrier for which I have purchased a PetSafe shock collar. The box containing the collar is still sitting on my shelf because I am very hesitant to use such a method on my little guy. I do not want to harm him in any way and somehow feel that this method could alter his great personality. Am I being too over-protective or should I be wary of using shock collars?

  5. Pat Paddock

    Sep 9, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Please schedule a demo with any one of our 95 locations. You study will be blown out of the water. All we end up with is a happy, obedient, confident dog. You will see remote collar training at its finest.

    • Mike brunning

      Sep 19, 2014 at 12:35 am

      Why do folks who use the e collar so defensive on the topic? Regardless of any information presented in contrary to their beliefs. Seems somewhat narrow minded. Negative training is just poor communication with the dog

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